The Cherokee Nation Election Commission was granted permission to see if any former Cherokee citizens voted in last month’s disputed Principal Chief election. The Cherokee Supreme Court gave the go ahead Saturday during a hearing to determine the winner in the close election.
The commission will check a list of voters against a list of relinquished Cherokee citizens who are not eligible to vote in Cherokee elections. To do so, they will release a list of “C.O. numbers,” a unique number given to every Cherokee citizen, to compare with the list of citizens who cast their votes.
Attorneys for Bill John Baker raised the concern that relinquished citizenship is an issue that should be dealt with on the district court level, according to Cherokee law, and should not be handled by the supreme court.
After the June 25, 2011, election, longtime councilman and challenger Bill John Baker was first declared the winner by 11 votes, but the election commission certified incumbent Chief Chad Smith as the winner by seven votes the next day.
Baker asked for a recount, which was done by hand last Thursday, June 30, 2011. He ended up winning by 266 votes, mostly due to absentee ballot discrepancies. Chief Chad Smith says there’s proof absentee ballots were miscounted.
In the ongoing saga, justices have also heard testimony from Chad Smith’s representatives that were there at the recount.
The two women felt there were discrepancies in the sorting and counting of the ballots; however, neither of them raised any objection at the recount, a Baker attorney pointed out.
If the court finds there is enough evidence that votes were miscounted or not counted at all, it’s possible the justices will call for a new election. Under Cherokee law, that duty falls to incumbent Chief Chad Smith, who remains in office until August 14, 2011.